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Ellen DeGeneres and the shifting US attitude towards homosexuality
March 26, 2013 8:57 PM   Subscribe

How Ellen DeGeneres Helped Change The Conversation About Gays
"Ellen DeGeneres is ... almost a litmus test of where we have been as a society," [Dietram Scheufele, a communications professor at the University of Wisconsin] says. "When she first came out and really put the issue of same-sex partnerships on people's agendas, and I mean people who really wouldn't have thought about it, I think the country was still in a very different state."
From her first stand-up performance on national TV in the US in 1986, the same year that the Supreme Court ruled that states have right to enforce code of sexual behavior, to 2008, when Ellen married Portia de Rossi, after California's Supreme Court ruled a previous ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional, Ellen's public life has mirrored the broader shift towards accepting homosexuality.

Ellen DeGeneres started out as a stand-up comedian. Her personality was warm and non-threatening. Her comedy was safe. The same year she appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Bowers v. Hardwick, in favor of the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to homosexuals.

In 1994, the first episode of Ellen the TV sitcom aired, in which Ellen played a tomboyish character who couldn't find the right guy. Then in February 1996, she played the lead in Mr. Wrong (full movie; trailer; Wikipedia), in which her husband-to-be isn't what he seems. That Fall, the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton. It was around the same time that there was public speculation on Ellen's sexuality. In April 1997, Ellen was on the cover of TIME magazine, with the caption "Yep, I'm Gay," so the coming out episode of Ellen a month later (part 1, part 2) wasn't too startling. Still, it was't an easy performance for Ellen, and many people were watching, even in parts of Alabama where the show pulled from the air. There were even GLAAD promoted "Come Out with Ellen" parties, for which supplies ran low. Some saw the episode as a publicity stunt, as there were reportedly 22 lesbian or gay characters in supporting roles on television, and back in 1989, at the height of the AIDS crisis, ABC reportedly lost $1 million in advertising when an episode of thirtysomething showed two gay men in bed together.

Not too surprisingly, some advertisers pulled funding, and even Oprah was a target after her interview with Ellen (part 2). But the negative attention and loss of advertisers didn't kill her sitcom. The show lasted to 1998, and in 2000, Ellen's 3 and a half year relationship with Anne Heche ended. The heightened public scrutiny of her personal life lead to Ellen withdrawing for a while, but not too long. She came back, hosting the Emmys in 2001 (part 2, part 3).

Ellen came back to television full-time with her own talk show in 2003. In 2008, she married her girlfriend of four years, Portia de Rossi, and later that year, CoverGirl signed Ellen on as a new spokesperson, which baffled these CBS News hosts, as the 50 year old Ellen DeGeneres didn't seem to them to be an obvious fit for a makeup company. But Ellen is still a spokesperson, cheeky as ever.

Last February, Ellen entered into a partnership with JC Penney, one of the companies that pulled advertising for her show in 1997, under pressure from Rev. Donald E. Wildmon and the American Family Association. JC Penney was once again petitioned to break ties with Ellen, but this time, JC Penny stuck with Ellen.
posted by filthy light thief (109 comments total) 84 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post. I've always thought DeGeneres is perhaps the best evidence of the assimilation and acceptance of gays and lesbians: Now you're just as dumb and banal as us breeders. Progress!
posted by docgonzo at 9:01 PM on March 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


From what I've seen of her daytime talk show...she's actually still kinda funny. Her timing is still really good.

That Johnny Carson clip is neat too. I always get chills when Johnny calls a first-timer over to his desk.
posted by triceryclops at 9:14 PM on March 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I remember how sad I was after she came out. Freshman year of college, I saw her on the cover of Time. I thought she'd completely ruined her career. I mourned her like she was dead.

I'm so, so glad I was wrong.

She seems delightful, and this is a great post.
posted by purpleclover at 9:16 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to me that Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen, and Rachel Maddow all rose to very prominent television presenter positions when they were well and truly out, but I can't think of any gay men in similar positions. Anderson Cooper is out I guess, but long after he landed the gig. Is it mere sampling error (the total number is still so tiny as to be statistically questionable to say the least), or is there something in the finer details of our capacity for acceptance as a society?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


rosie was not out. it was a badly kept secret, maybe as badly kept as anderson cooper, but she wasn't out.
posted by nadawi at 9:29 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gay or straight, I've never quite gotten her as a comic. It's not like she's bad, but she never struck me as particularly great either. Maybe it's just me. She's a good talk show host though.
posted by GuyZero at 9:29 PM on March 26, 2013


i love ellen. she is such a part of my growing up and accepting my queerness (and in some ways - my mom at least not freaking out over my queerness). i don't watch her whole show much these days, but i'll put clips on a few times a month. she's still fucking hilarious. i also love her quest for fun - playing games, scaring celebrities, dancing, all of it - she jumps into anything (that's not too messy) with a wide grin. i love a good alt comic with all the cynicism that's mainstream at this point, but sometimes it just feels good to feel good.

i know it'll never happen, and she has a good gig - but with all the talks of jimmy fallon taking over the tonight show, i wish they'd instead give it to ellen.
posted by nadawi at 9:35 PM on March 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


Ellen seems really nice, which I think is among the highest praise you can give someone who has been in the public eye so intensely for so long. She seems like a NICE PERSON, and even after facing years of nastiness and controversy, I can't think of a single example of her responding in kind.

That may of course just mean she's very professional but that's good too!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [22 favorites]


Bizzare. Watched that Carson clip today and then its posted here. I watch old comedian clips and it suggested her. She was funny.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 PM on March 26, 2013


Ellen the brand, as in Ellen the Talk Show is Nice but non-threatening. This isn't aspirational lifestyle show time, this is "hang out with your koooooky friend and feel good vibes!" hour. Oh look Celebrities! they're just like us! Now there's a kitty! Everyone loves kitties! The fact that this kind of gentle mass-appeal light entertainment can exist with causal mentions to her RL wife (like any male host would) and even interview her once or twice when she's got a new project is actually kind of astounding in how far that goes to normalize and provide examples of a same-Sex couples, particularly for the usually older, more conservative demo that mid-day talk shows reach.
posted by The Whelk at 10:06 PM on March 26, 2013 [64 favorites]


WAIT.

You're telling me she's got a kitty?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:21 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


WAIT.

You're telling me she's got a kitty?


This changes EVERYTHING!
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:24 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


This thread would be incomplete without Ellen describing the three years since her coming out through interpretive dance (from her concert special "The Beginning")
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on March 26, 2013 [22 favorites]


In the span of about 5 minutes, this one post changed my view of Ellen drastically. Thank you.
posted by samthemander at 10:27 PM on March 26, 2013


The JC Penney ads are pretty awesome.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:31 PM on March 26, 2013


As a young boy, the first time I was ever introduced to the concept of homosexuality was Ellen's 1994 cover of time. I can remember when I saw it vividly - the friendly text "Yep, I'm gay." Her crouched position on a white background. I remember less of the story inside - I was 8 - but I knew that being gay was something. And when I realized, about four years after that, that I was gay, it made everything afterward easier.

Thank you, Ellen.
posted by Amplify at 10:46 PM on March 26, 2013 [44 favorites]


Oh, man, I totally forgot there was a time when Ellen was expected to play a sitcom character who dated dudes, or the female lead in (heteronormative) romantic comedies.

It's interesting how someone like Ellen has made a way for herself in an entertainment industry where there really aren't options for non-(hetero)sexualized female performers.
posted by Sara C. at 10:48 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously - while I wasn't really a fan of her sitcom, I have to say, it's pretty damn awesome the way she made her character come out when there weren't any lead characters on a TV show that were gay and NOT a stereotype-for-alleged-comedy. And like The Whelk says, it's pretty amazing that she's got a midday talkshow given the demographics that typically watch those. And not only that, but a beloved talk show. Even though she's not my cup of tea (though I tend to feel a lot of good will towards her personally -- I'm just not that into her comedy), I like her, and think she's pretty damn awesome for being THERE, making people who perhaps don't know any gay people personally (or who don't know they do) realize that they're not really an "other". After all, it's hard to think of Ellen as anything other than an "Us", she's not a "them".

...but seriously? She's got a kitty on her talk show? Talk about burying the lede!
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 10:57 PM on March 26, 2013


I've always really liked Ellen (and I agree with Eyebrows McGee that Ellen just seems like a nice person).

There's a blogger called Kung Fu Monkey who's done some TV shows and spent quite a bit of time as a touring stand-up comic before that. I was struck by a couple of comments he made about Ellen's comic skills - especially her timing:
"There are jokes with an ironclad structure, and then there are ones that rely on delivery only for the laugh, while 99.99999 % require a personally stylistic blend of the two. Ellen DeGeneres, for example had these intricately timed clockwork jokes only she could deliver, while somebody like Elayne Boosler wrote marvelously solid jokes you could give a chimp to perform." (Stand-Up is Tricky)
and especially
Ellen was, as a road comic, one of the best joke writers of the last thirty years. Seriously, her socio-political fame has completely eclipsed that legacy. She was technically ... blinding. (Why Tell Jokes)
I always thought Ellen was funny, but there was something particularly satisfying about reading that admiration from another professional.
posted by kristi at 11:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Ellen is gay?

?!?
posted by mazola at 11:02 PM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


mazola puts the corn in corn oil.
posted by hippybear at 11:07 PM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


it's pretty amazing that she's got a midday talkshow given the demographics that typically watch those.

Quite the reverse, actually. The daytime lineup has been the home for progressive social mores for a very very long time. The most popular morality plays in the history of mankind (soap operas) have embraced what society couldn't since the day they first went on the air.

Also I suspect that demographic is not who you think it is.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:12 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thank you for this post. As a wannabe stand-up comic, she has influenced me. As a down-to-earth, likeable person, she has influenced some of my family toward acceptance of my relationship with my partner. She is on my top ten list of people I'd like to meet.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:21 PM on March 26, 2013


i was raised on hbo stand-up shows, and from the early days i've found that every comedian i like has like one perfect stand-up set/show, the one that i can go back to and watch again and still find it as funny as the first time. the only ones i've found who have more than one such show are louis ck and ellen, whose here and now and the beginning i think are perfect.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:24 PM on March 26, 2013


Last February, Ellen entered into a partnership with JC Penney

This is what becomes of recognizing corporations as people, right?
posted by dhartung at 11:32 PM on March 26, 2013 [45 favorites]


I was in college when she came out and it really was a big deal back then, most of my gay friends were definitely not out and I lived in CA. Now I know all these young gay kids in their 20s that have always been out and they're from small towns too, not LA and they're like "why would I not tell people I'm gay?" Being "in the closet" is like car phones or the Cosby show, it's history, something they heard about and seen on TV but haven't experienced. It's awesome. (And half of them are so conservative- argh! but that's another post)
posted by fshgrl at 11:32 PM on March 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best performance is still Finding Nemo.
posted by Jimbob at 11:34 PM on March 26, 2013 [29 favorites]


....yeah, she was AWESOME as Dory. I loved that movie.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:37 PM on March 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


welp, now it's three in the morning thanks to watching ellen show clips about selena gomez, justin bieber, and little singing kids. thanks a lot, metafilter, you jerk

(seriously ellen is so fun and wonderful)
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:52 PM on March 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Aw snap, with Portia.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 11:54 PM on March 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, Ellen looks identical to both Laurie Anderson and Ze Frank, and I want the three of them to form a pop group together.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:57 PM on March 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Last February, Ellen entered into a partnership with JC Penney
This is what becomes of recognizing corporations as people, right?


Why do you think conservatives keep going on about traditional marriage? In their world you really *can* marry anything.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:35 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've personally don't find Ellen funny, but she deserves a lot of kudos for the smart way she's positioned her sexuality and shown, over again, that gay people can be on mainstream TV as gay people and not lead to the impending demise of all_that_is_good_in_the_world.

Her great skill is her disarming affability. I suspect even rabid homophobes find her unthreatening even as she quietly makes "being gay" an irreversible and normal feature of the mainstream life and not the closet perversion the Christian right wishes it were.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:31 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


She's in Sydney now, so I can find her wife and ask what happened to Better Off Ted. Ellen's getting the Oprah royal treatment. Good on her.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:45 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ellen DeGeneres is preternaturally charming - - this was finally confirmed for me after viewing her 1996 performance in Disney's Epcot attraction, Universe of Energy: Ellen's Energy Adventure - - she once again elevates the banal, as she does with so many pop culture projects.
posted by fairmettle at 4:15 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


ellen has just been in the town that i was born the comments from her and her mother were positive like me they said we were an attractive people and i agree
posted by 404 Not Found at 4:25 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


DeGeneres deftly uses the universal nature of humor to shock us into recognition of our sameness. Her approach embodies Twain's remark, "against the assault of laughter nothing can stand."
posted by kinnakeet at 5:17 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember watching the puppy episode alone in my room and crying. I was out to only one friend, and my family was in the midst of a lot of turmoil as my own father, at 40, had come out himself.

It seems so very long ago, but it's actually a great memory, seeing someone on TV who was sort of like me, sort of like my dad.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:21 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Russell Brand meeting Sophia Grace is the best thing to ever happen on Ellen's show, and that is saying something. An excerpt:

RB: What’s happening in your mind right now Sophia Grace? Express everything you ever thought.

SG: PINK!


A little background on Sophia Grace in case you don't know who the eff she is.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:42 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is what becomes of recognizing corporations as people, right?

Surely its just a matter of time before Ferrari comes out. Italian, flamboyant, always hanging around with rich older men. We've all known forever.
posted by Damienmce at 5:57 AM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh please. Ellen DeGeneres produces bland saccharine entertainment industry PR that is not just funny at all. Has Metafilter truly jumped the shark or what?
posted by dydecker at 6:10 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


dydecker: Has Metafilter truly jumped the shark or what?

The phrase "jump the shark" jumped the shark in 2003.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 AM on March 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


It's interesting to me that Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen, and Rachel Maddow all rose to very prominent television presenter positions when they were well and truly out, but I can't think of any gay men in similar positions. Anderson Cooper is out I guess, but long after he landed the gig. Is it mere sampling error (the total number is still so tiny as to be statistically questionable to say the least), or is there something in the finer details of our capacity for acceptance as a society?

What's interesting is that Britain has a bunch of gay men who are television presenters: Graham Norton, Alan Carr, Paul O'Grady, etc. I do think they tend to inhabit the same kind of space, as if you have to hit a certain level of camp to be considered non-threatening. (Or the somewhat camp chat show is a highly successful format and it's coincidence. It's not like Jonathan Ross isn't in the same vein.)
posted by hoyland at 6:22 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Oh please. Ellen DeGeneres produces bland saccharine entertainment industry PR that is not just funny at all. Has Metafilter truly jumped the shark or what?"

This FPP isn't about how funny she is, and hey if you need to be cursed at or have vile shit thrown out from a stage to laugh more power to you, but its about the plainly massive effect she has had on the acceptance of our basic civil rights.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:28 AM on March 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


Best performance is still Finding Nemo.

Even here, the "intricately timed clockwork" delivery is really working for her - and she also uses it when the character is emphatically not telling jokes. Such an endlessly fascinating and satisfying performance.

Albert Brooks is the "straight man" in the traditional double act, and we get to see how Marlin's feelings are hurt or brushed aside, and his frustration and determination are ever present. Dory, as the "funny man" side of the duo has to deal with that, and be hurt in turn. It's a very grown-up and sophisticated treatment of a very old trope, and DeGeneres really hit it out of the park.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:29 AM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ellen did all the difficult public groundwork for mass gay acceptance that made it safe for Jodie Foster to trash it decades later at an awards show. Ellen -- respect.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:41 AM on March 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


dydecker: "Oh please. Ellen DeGeneres produces bland saccharine entertainment industry PR that is not just funny at all. Has Metafilter truly jumped the shark or what?

Rock Steady: "Russell Brand meeting Sophia Grace is the best thing to ever happen on Ellen's show"

I believe you meant to say that Kristen Bell's Sloth Meltdown was the best thing ever to happen on Ellen.

how anyone can see that and not be immediately in love with Kristen Bell is beyond me
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:44 AM on March 27, 2013 [34 favorites]


I never really cared for Ellen. I'm not saying she sucks or anything, but her schtick is... too low energy for me or something.

I've spoken before about how I came around from being a fag-hating dittohead to the proud father of an out teen.

Ellen was a big part of that. Her Time cover and the controversy it generated helped me put a bunch of things into perspective.

I really respect what she's done. I don't know how much different my life would be if she hadn't, but I suspect my son's would be very different and not in a good way.

I still don't really like her show. But I'm really glad she is doing it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:05 AM on March 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


namewithoutwords: I believe you meant to say that Kristen Bell's Sloth Meltdown was the best thing ever to happen on Ellen.

I knew someone was going to bring up Kristen Bell after I posted that, and I don't have a response. You are probably right.

My KB crush dates back to Veronica Mars, so.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:05 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eyes too dry? Haven't exercised the heart muscle recently?

Try this clip from when Talia visited Ellen.
posted by thanotopsis at 7:12 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love Ellen. She's charming as all hell, funny, sweet, and cute as a button. She shows a lot of kindness and warmth, which feels so rare these days. I'm not much for TV in general, but I enjoy having her show on from time to time when I'm working, and I really appreciate the gently amusing, playful tone of it. Her enthusiasm for her guests is so much fun! I very nearly peed my pants when she had Lenny Kravitz on last year.
posted by MissySedai at 7:13 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rock Steady: The phrase "jump the shark" jumped the shark in 2003.

And now that I think about it, so did Ellen.

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:43 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


To me, it feels like just yesterday that I had to stop going to Wendy's because they stopped advertising on Ellen's sitcom after she came out. (This may not seem like a big deal, but if I seem like a Gay Glutton now, I have nothing -- and fifty fewer pounds -- than 1996 me.) So I'm still stupidly thrilled if the main conversation in a thread about Ellen is her supposed banality. Progress!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:54 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good for her, but I still find her distinctly un-funny.
posted by Doohickie at 8:05 AM on March 27, 2013


I know I'm way behind the curve but I didn't know who Kristen Bell was before watching that clip. She's adorable!

Also, as far as Ellen's concerned, she is clearly an anti-cynic. Being world-weary precludes one from enjoying her character and her show. I'm sure she's not a one-woman charisma factory 100% when she's off set, but it's the role she plays and it's not meant for the jaded.

I adore her and her enthusiasm.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:13 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was young (not sure how old I was when she had her sitcom) I watched her sitcom every week. When she would date guys on her show, even at a young age, it felt so wrong to me. I didn't know what gay was, but it didn't seem like her natural state. I couldnt figure out what it was, but I knew she didn't look comfortable.

When she came out and I found out what gay was, it made so much sense to me. It seriously made me realize that I knew all along. I was so happy for her as a little kid that she finally got to say who she really was. I'm still happy for her and love the hell out of Ellen.
posted by Sweetmag at 8:17 AM on March 27, 2013


Firstly, I love Ellen. I watch her several times a week. It really does seem that she has helped many people become more understanding and accepting of lesbians and gays.

That being said, I had really conflicted feelings when she came out. I came out of the closet in the 80s. By the time Ellen was coming out, I was like, "Really? What's the big deal?" Everyone was making a huge fuss about this famous person coming out of the closet, and it just felt like some people thought no one had ever come out of the closet before. The truth is, Ellen wouldn't have been able to come out of the closet, if it hadn't been for hundreds of thousands (millions?) of other gay people coming out before her.

Some would argue that fame is different and has different pressures. Famous people "have so much to lose." Well, lots of ordinary people lost their lives for coming out. In the end, however, even famous people eventually had to come out of the closet, whatever their motivations, and I'm glad she did, and I do believe she's made a difference.

In the end, what bothers me the most is that she has such a platform for change, and tries to promote kindness and charity, and yet she supports a corporatist system that disenfranchises so many and creates the very miserable charity cases that she comes alongs and cherry picks to drop some miracle money on.
posted by PigAlien at 8:17 AM on March 27, 2013


What's interesting is that Britain has a bunch of gay men who are television presenters: Graham Norton, Alan Carr, Paul O'Grady, etc. I do think they tend to inhabit the same kind of space, as if you have to hit a certain level of camp to be considered non-threatening. (Or the somewhat camp chat show is a highly successful format and it's coincidence. It's not like Jonathan Ross isn't in the same vein.)

Well, and there's Simon Amstell, who is a straight gay, as tvtropes puts it, but whose lack of flamboyant sexuality while still being unabashed about his preferences seemed to occasionally really threaten male guests.

(Yes, this is the second time in a week I'm bringing up Amstell on metafilter. Yes, I'm a bit obsessed. Sorry.)

It's interesting, though, that for queer women, the way to social acceptance seems to be to act really innocuous and "normal," while for men, it's to act camp.

Also just want to chime in with the Ellen love.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:40 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have mixed feelings on one somewhat side issue. Would it have been all that wrong for her to have kept that sort of non-dancing dance in, well not the closet, but the green room?
posted by sammyo at 8:45 AM on March 27, 2013


Well, and there's Simon Amstell, who is a straight gay, as tvtropes puts it, but whose lack of flamboyant sexuality while still being unabashed about his preferences seemed to occasionally really threaten male guests

Donny Tourette could be threatened by small ladybirds.
posted by jaduncan at 8:48 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


sammyo: Would it have been all that wrong for her to have kept that sort of non-dancing dance in, well not the closet, but the green room?

Jordan Morris of Jordan, Jesse, Go! has talked on the podcast about being a PA (I think) on Ellen's talk show when she decided to stop the dancing thing. He was checking the show's email at the time, and he says they received reams of vituperative hate mail about the decision, and she was basically forced to bring it back permanently.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:54 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Her humor may not be for everybody. It particularly seems to offend the sort of people who think the appropriate discussion in a thread about how her career has paralleled mass acceptance of gays in America is to discuss how unfunny they find her.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:59 AM on March 27, 2013 [16 favorites]


In the end, what bothers me the most is that she has such a platform for change, and tries to promote kindness and charity, and yet she supports a corporatist system that disenfranchises so many and creates the very miserable charity cases that she comes alongs and cherry picks to drop some miracle money on.

I just don't see the Naomi Klein/Janeane Garofalo Variety Hour lasting long in that timeslot.
posted by psoas at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just don't see the Naomi Klein/Janeane Garofalo Variety Hour lasting long in that timeslot.

Funny or Die, make this happen!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:20 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was actually hanging out with my mom a few years ago when coverage of Ellen's wedding came on the tv. My parents come from a culture where even talking about being gay is taboo. I glanced over to her, expecting some negativity. Her response? "Portia looks pretty and they're a cute couple."

My mom doesn't get most American comedy, due to language barriers. But she does get that Ellen comes across as a warm, likeable, genuinely nice person, and that was enough.
posted by snickerdoodle at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I *love* Ellen, and I love this whole thread, but let me be a crabby ol' gay for just a second.

DeGeneres was so deep in the closet that she made a movie called Mr. Wrong, playing a lonely young woman who feels so pressured to get married, she ends up dating a guy who turns out to be crazy.

Ellen taking this role had nothing to do with her being "so deep in the closet." This is annoying. She's a comedic actress, she was offered a part, she was funny in the movie.

This is like saying, "Neil Patrick Harris was so deeply in the closet, he accepted the role of Barney Stinson, a crass womanizer on the sitcom 'How I Met Your Mother."

And also . . .

while there was already a burgeoning gay-rights movement, a lot of homosexuals were not ready to come out of the closet.

Burgeoning? I think the "gay-rights movement" was "burgeoning" in the 60s, was gaining firm rooting in the 70s, and by 1984 was recognized as an established movement. I was in my early teens in '84; someone who was older than that tell me what you think of this.

Am I just over-caffeinated and crabby this morning?
posted by MoxieProxy at 10:24 AM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


The fact that Ellen (or any gay actor) played straight characters has nothing to do with being closeted, that's why it's called 'acting.'
posted by jonmc at 10:31 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe you meant to say that Kristen Bell's Sloth Meltdown was the best thing ever to happen on Ellen.

I've always been fond of the time Ellen did Sofia Vergara's makeup for her.

The highbrow part of me wants to say that it's because it demonstrates the casual acceptance of Ellen's sexuality while simultaneously contrasting the very feminine Vergara against the relatively more butch DeGeneres (though, who isn't a bit butchy when compared to Vergara?). Since they both have makeup contracts with the same company, this allows for the exploration of presentations of modern femininity and beauty

Really though, it is because it's a summer camp skit that Ellen decided would be hilarious to put on national TV and was right.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:32 AM on March 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


She is just so damn likable. Most people who changed their minds about gays did so because of someone they knew and liked who was gay. Many people feel something akin to friendship with certain celebrities and or the characters they play. Perhaps having that celebrity come out works just like having your cousin or good friend come out. Not only is Ellen likable but she handled all of the hatred and controversy with such grace. Love, humor and grace can change hearts and minds and Ellen is proof of that.
posted by caddis at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I ♥ Ellen!
posted by ericb at 10:43 AM on March 27, 2013


I can vouch for the fact that Ellen's not very good at pinball...
posted by AJaffe at 10:43 AM on March 27, 2013


i think that an actors sexuality shouldn't matter to the roles they play, but i do think there is a difference between a closeted person playing a straight role and a person who is out playing that same role. i also think we see a lot of people looking for their academy award by being straight and convincingly playing gay, but there's still a big aversion to watching gay characters play straight (NPH notwithstanding), and i hope that changes.
posted by nadawi at 10:55 AM on March 27, 2013


but there's still a big aversion to watching gay characters play straight

This is a whole fascinating (to me) offshoot conversation! Many times, straight actors are rewarded for being brave enough to play gay, but gay actors are not recognized for playing roles that are gay. (Is that acting? He's already gay!)

I remember Sean Hayes refusing to "come out" officially, even though everyone knew he was gay, in part because he feared he wouldn't be considered for Emmy nominations for playing Jack. Now, we see this in Modern Family, where the straight actor who plays Cam has won two Emmy awards, and the out gay actor who plays Mitch has won zero.

Still, NPH, Portia, Matt Bomer, Alan Cumming, (help me think of others) -- these are out gay actors currently playing straight characters in successful shows, with little/no backlash. that's progress!
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:42 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


John Barrowman, Simon Callow, Stephen Fry, Jim Parsons Zachary Quinto and many others have successfully played 'straight' roles.
posted by ericb at 12:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


oh yeah, it certainly happens, but i still think there's a cultural aversion to it. i think it's also telling that some members of the list weren't out when they got their roles.
posted by nadawi at 12:19 PM on March 27, 2013


... but there's still a big aversion to watching gay characters play straight.

Brings to mind the Ramin Setoodeh's 2010 Newsweek article -- Straight Jacket -- in which he suggested gay actors really can't play straight roles.
The article caused an uproar ... and, Setoodeh responded with a follow-up article -- Out of Focus.
posted by ericb at 12:23 PM on March 27, 2013


Matt Bomer

There's another actor who is just ALL kinds of charming. I love his work in White Collar, and in every interview I have seen and read he comes across as genuinely warm and nice.

As for folks piling on to the Ellen Isn't Funny bandwagon, I think whomever upthread noting that she's not for the world weary is spot on. She is light and sweet, like spun sugar, and completely unselfconscious about it. That's precisely WHY she has helped the cause of acceptance so much. It's less challenging for stodgy old farts to see someone like Ellen as "normal", to accept her sexuality and not fuss about it, than it is to be accepting of folks who project cynicism. Yeah, I know, it sounds like the Tone Argument, but I'm not in charge of human nature.
posted by MissySedai at 12:23 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mustn't forget one of Setoodeh's previous articles: Kings of Queens: "Gays on TV once helped promote tolerance. Now they may be hurting it."
posted by ericb at 12:25 PM on March 27, 2013


I love these pictures of Matt Bomer and his partner Simon Halls taking their three sons Kit, Henry, and Walker out for a stroll in NYC.
posted by ericb at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]




oh yeah, it certainly happens, but i still think there's a cultural aversion to it. i think it's also telling that some members of the list weren't out when they got their roles.

Yeah, that list is interesting in the sense that most of the people who've been named (all but Portia de Rossi, whom I'm not sure about) were either famous before being out and/or British (some working mostly in the US, some mostly not). I don't really know what to conclude from the nationality thing--Barrowman, Fry and Callow work mostly in Britain, I think, which tells us nothing about the US. Alan Cumming lives in the US.
posted by hoyland at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2013




Is it just me, or is stuff like "OMG gays on TV = bad now!" sort of counterproductive? I think we're ready for a more nuanced discussion of homosexuality and media, I'm just not sure Setoodeh is accomplishing that. He mostly sounds like the worst kind of concern troll.

I would love a conversation about whether characters like Sean Hayes' Jack from Will & Grace did more to help or hurt the wider acceptance of gay people. Setoodeh seems to be saying "this is why you homos can't have nice things".
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on March 27, 2013


Last night NBS News had this segment: TV’s impact on the gay marriage debate [video].
posted by ericb at 12:41 PM on March 27, 2013


Portia de Rossi, whom I'm not sure about

She had a role on Ally McBeal, where I'm pretty sure she played a straight person (but honestly did not really watch Ally McBeal), and I think she was not out at the time (but again, I did not really watch Ally McBeal).

In my (flawed) understanding, she didn't come out as gay until she was involved with Ellen.

Which I think is yet another thing that makes Ellen cool. Not only does she make it OK for LGBTQ media figures to come out in a sort of abstract sense, she also makes it OK for specific gay celebrities to come out via presumably not being willing to be closety about her own life and relationships. Considering what a punchline the Anne Heche thing was, I really respect that.
posted by Sara C. at 12:45 PM on March 27, 2013


They've also lost Bill O'Reilly ...

Bill O’Reilly: All The Gay Marriage Opponents Do Is “Thump The Bible” -- “We are Americans, we just want to be treated like everybody else. That’s a compelling argument.” (w/video).
posted by ericb at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2013


Compare-and-contrast: Bill O'Reilly | May 2009 ...

O'Reilly: Gay marriage could lead to goat, duck, dolphin, and turtle marriage (w/video).
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Republicans want the gay vote. This is a plan for expanding the base, not a sudden moral clarity.

I'm not interested.

As an old acquaintance used to say,"Dance with the one that brung ya!"
posted by MoxieProxy at 12:52 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hell, they've even lost Rush Limbaugh - he now has declared himself fine with gay marriage.

The linked article is actually about Bill O'Reilly, who is (IMHO) marginally less obnoxious than Rush Limbaugh. Did Limbaugh actually make a recent statement about gay marriage?
posted by JeffL at 1:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW -- I suggest watching this great and touching clip where Ellen interviews Julian and Dailius Wilson from Australia (where she and Portia are right now).

Don't miss the follow-up.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on March 27, 2013


"The linked article is actually about Bill O'Reilly, who is (IMHO) marginally less obnoxious than Rush Limbaugh. Did Limbaugh actually make a recent statement about gay marriage?"

...And I only notice after the edit window
posted by Blasdelb at 1:28 PM on March 27, 2013


[eating disorders discussed in the links]

portia was very much closeted during ally mcbeal - she was terrified of being outed, and generally miserable (there were some body image things going on too). she talked about it a lot while promoting her book. here is a short version for APnews and here it is more in depth version (part 2) on ellen's show.
posted by nadawi at 1:31 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The linked article is actually about Bill O'Reilly, who is (IMHO) marginally less obnoxious than Rush Limbaugh"

I have a feeling Bill O' Reilly doesn't believe his own crap, which doesn't let him off the hook for spouting said crap, but it's interesting to me. He just doesn't seem as committed to the bile as most of them.

Limbaugh on the other hand, is a disgusting foul blusterball whose opinion and mind I just can't even be bothered with.
posted by sweetkid at 1:38 PM on March 27, 2013


"Russell Brand meeting Sophia Grace is the best thing to ever happen on Ellen's show"

I believe you meant to say that Kristen Bell's Sloth Meltdown yt was the best thing ever to happen on Ellen.


I haven't seen much of the show, but the clip with Gladys cracks me up every time.
posted by homunculus at 1:39 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree that Gladys and Kristen Bell are top three moments, but I actually quite like when Sophia Grace met Nicki Minaj. I cry every time I watch the clip.

I also loved when she scared Taylor Swift so much she just dropped to the ground.

Personally I've hardly ever watched a whole episode, mostly because it's on during the work day, but I've seen so many clips on Facebook etc.
posted by sweetkid at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anderson Cooper is out I guess, but long after he landed the gig.

He joins other out gay cable news anchors: Don Lemon (CNN), Steve Kornacki (MSNBC), Thomas Roberts, (MSNBC), and Jane Velez-Mitchell (HLN).

And related: just this week TODAY show's Jenna Wolfe and her partner, NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk, both came out ... and announced they are expecting a baby.
posted by ericb at 1:50 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


My 80yo grandmother called her "Ellen Degenerate" up until I forced her to watch the Here and Now special. Most of it went over her head but she thought Ellen was great after that.

Ellen definitely has an appeal that changes minds.
posted by M Edward at 1:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember people calling her "Ellen Degenerate" when she came out initially in the 90s.

I remember also that her Mom Betty got a lot of press around that time (though I don't remember why) and thinking 'would people say something like that to her MOM??"
posted by sweetkid at 2:03 PM on March 27, 2013


To derail to the awesome Neil Patrick Harris a bit more, he actually played Neil Patrick Harris as an obnoxiously straight poonhound in the Harold and Kumar movies after everyone already knew he was gay! It works on so many levels!
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would totally follow a tumblr of just interesting Ellen segments.
posted by Sara C. at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


her Mom Betty got a lot of press around that time (though I don't remember why)

She wrote a book around that time, or maybe a little after, about having a gay kid, and I think has been an advocate for PFLAG.
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


oh, and here is a less depressing portia/ellen interview - part 1, part 2, part 3. they play the newlywed game! and they sing! and there are wedding pictures!
posted by nadawi at 2:11 PM on March 27, 2013


Can we have an Ellen segment where she brings her wife on and Portia does skits with, oh, say, her playing some corporate version of Lindsey from AD, opposite some charming everyman, say Jay Herrington, in some absurdist workplace comedy?
posted by PMdixon at 2:34 PM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Rory Marinich: Also, Ellen looks identical to both Laurie Anderson and Ze Frank, and I want the three of them to form a ______ together.
You've just started the world's dirtiest rendition of Mad Libs in my mind. Thank you.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:35 PM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


dydecker: Oh please. Ellen DeGeneres produces bland saccharine entertainment industry PR that is not just funny at all. Has Metafilter truly jumped the shark or what?
We get it. You are too cool for what's popular. We're all very impressed, I assure you.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:37 PM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't read this whole thread (about 75% through), but commenting because I am already so surprised how different my experiences and memories of Ellen's coming out than those I'm reading. The world I lived in, the media I experienced, were all highly aware Ellen was gay before the sitcom and I recall there was a lot of pressure on Ellen from multiple parts of the "gay community" to come out in the months before she did so on the show. To the point that it seemed to many of us that she was forced out of the closet and this concern was much debated.

Then again, I was a feminist pagan goth in college discovering her own sexual spectrum during that time; I'm sure my exposures (and lack of) were different than those of many I encounter here. So I can understand how so many experienced that period differently. I just had never considered it before and my mind is *blown*. Seriously, you didn't know? I thought everyone knew; I'm no one and I knew.

I liked the sitcom and her, I liked how she presented her "gayness" (as her version, not yours), and I'll never forget I was supposed to get a toaster after recruitment. On occasion, I catch her daytime show, some of what previous comments criticized about it are precisely what I do like; so much of day time tv is hateful, harsh, jangly, and/or drama but Ellen is safe, fun, casual, and happy*. I can have her on in the background while I go about my business and I know I'm not going to get stressed out by the tv. During the day, I don't need to be engaged by television, I need to not be alone.

*Though a little too into Justin Beiber to not creep me out a little. Then again, so are a bunch of my female peers. Still creepin' me.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:03 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just keep swimming.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:38 AM on April 2, 2013


_paegan_ , as a fourteen year old high school proto-queer/bi/questioning girl, I knew, and I knew other people knew, but I also saw the tension of her not saying.

I guess we all have different ways of being out, but my understanding is that "out" isn't simply being outwardly LGBTQ, dressing and acting like you wanna, having a girlfriend, and doing other things that likely signify queerness. (Which I think Ellen Degeneres has always done both publicly and privately.)

Coming out is when you say "I'm a lesbian". Those things can go hand in hand, but, especially for media figures, don't always.

For example "everyone" has "known" for years that Anderson Cooper is gay. He did not come out until relatively recently. Ellen was one of the first highly publicized situations like this, where the tension (most likely in part due to the way her image was handled by the network, pr people, publicists, etc) crested and she HAD to come out in Prime Time and it was this big national moment.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 AM on April 2, 2013


Sara C. Yeah, I get the distinction. I was commenting on my surprise that there were those around at the time who experienced Ellen's coming out with surprise - they genuinely didn't know before she "came out". Based upon your response to me, it does seem like you didn't quite read what I wrote.

I, however, didn't know (ok, he did set off my -dar) about Anderson Cooper. My interactions with the world are radically different than 20 years ago.
posted by _paegan_ at 1:29 PM on April 11, 2013


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